A New York Times article, “Menopause is Different for Women of Color” discusses the differences in the menopause transition for women of color. The article states that when women of color seek out care, they encounter doctors who are not aware of these differences. This can lead to women of color feeling that their concerns are being dismissed.
The article references SWAN as a study that has found some key differences in the menopause transition across races. Some differences include Hispanic and Black women reach menopause earlier than White, Chinese and Japanese women. They can also experience some menopausal symptoms for 10 years or more which is twice as long as Chinese, Japanese and White women.
SWAN investigators Dr Sherri-Ann Burnett-Bowie, Dr. Monica Christmas and Dr. Rebecca Thurston provide input on these differences.
The SWAN study has noted that Black women were more likely to report financial instability, instances of discrimination and experiences of violence. Dr. Burnett-Bowie explains that these experiences can affect a person’s overall health known as a process of “weathering” that is described in a paper she co-authored on. This paper is titled, “Disparities in Reproductive Aging and Midlife Health between Black and White women: The Study of Women’s Health Across the Nation (SWAN)”. The article also references a paper that has found women of color reported using hormone therapy to manage menopausal symptoms less frequently than white women. The paper is titled, “Menopause hormone therapy and complementary alternative medicine, quality of life, and racial/ethnic differences: the Study of Women’s Health Across the Nation (SWAN)”. A co-author on this paper, Dr. Monica Christmas, states that this issue could be “unconscious racial biases” that lead to physicians thinking the patient does not need treatment. It has been shown that unmanaged menopause symptoms can lead to long-term negative health effects. The paper titled, “Menopausal Vasomotor Symptoms and Risk of Incident Cardiovascular Disease Events in SWAN” led by Dr. Rebecca Thurston, has found that women with frequent or persistent hot flashes who are not using hormone therapy can have an elevated risk of cardiovascular disease events including heart failure and stroke. She states that frequent hot flashes are likely a marker of underlying vascular health.
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